As Clemson women's basketball coach Audra Smith knocks on doors this recruiting season, she's finding that she doesn't have to knock quite so loudly, or persistently, as she did at UAB.
Armed with her infectious personal exuberance and a relentless drive to rebuild the Clemson women's basketball program into something special, Smith is finding the recruiting doors wide open as she sells Clemson and the ACC.
It's not a liability, either, to have Dabo Swinney on her side.
"I tell you, there is power in the paw," Smith said. "Everywhere that we have been, we walk into a school and right away it’s like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Clemson!’
"And it doesn’t hurt that we have Dabo Swinney and that our football team is at No. 3 in the country. That's a huge thing for us. And we're finding that there are so many kids across the country that want to play at the highest level, and the ACC is the highest level."
There are players that find a challenge like Clemson's appealing.
Smith is anything but writing off the 2013-14 season. She has an experienced and hungry core of players returning, plus several newcomers who'll compete for spots in the mix.
But the emphasis for Smith's first season will be on teaching her defense-first mentality, and on recruiting to her vision of a successful, high-level team.
"We have so many recruits interested who want to come for visits that we're having to scramble to find hotels," Smith said. "There's a high level of awareness of Clemson, and a high level of interest in this program."
Smith and her staff (Daryl Oliver, Marc Wilson, Kayla Ard and Kathy Becker) - all of whom accompanied her from UAB - jumped full speed into preparing for the upcoming season when they opened full-squad practice on Wednesday.
Smith says she likes what she's seen of the Tigers so far.
"They want to win, and we have to show them how to win,” Smith said. “We're in a process of changing their mentality and making them understand how we can get that done. They’re tired of losing. They’re tired of being cellar-dwellers, and we’ve all been very encouraging as a staff in letting them know that we can win.”
The players, she said, have been receptive.
“The older kids have really stepped up to the plate, and I'm convinced we’re going to play hard and that we're going to compete,” Smith said. “Those are things that I feel like you don’t have to have a lot of skill or talent or athleticism to do. Everybody can play hard, compete, and defend and rebound. Defense and rebounding is all about heart, all about will."
Defense, she said, will be her first priority. Offensive improvement will come in time.
"We feel like if we can hold our opponents to 55 points a game, we have a chance to be successful," Smith said. "Offensively, we have some players who can make their own shots. We'll keep things simple at first, and then grow into it."
Clemson will play preseason exhibition games on Oct. 29 and Nov. 3 against Truett-McConnell and Limestone, before opening its season at home on Friday, Nov. 8, against Davidson.